Posted on October 27th, 2017 - Fiona
Our Halloween Fun Day has become quite legendary taking place on the last day of half term, regardless of when Halloween falls. It takes a huge amount of preparation and I like to practice a few of the crafts the week leading up to half term with the guests here in activity hour. With a group ranging from age 1 to 12 I knew it would be a good test for what worked and how long each craft would take. Needless to say I had far more planned than we managed but it did all make a lovely Halloween display stand for Half Term and a few extras to take home as keepsakes.
Lighting the way
We began by making decorative tea light jars. The children disappeared off in search of pretty autumn coloured leaves while I applied PVA glue to all the jars and placed a tea light inside.
By the time they returned I had a jar ready for everyone and a stack of coloured tissue paper to intersperse with the leaves.
We finished the lights off with a piece of ribbon and added some to the Halloween display and kept others back for the children to take home.
Halloween printed bunting
My Halloween display was taking shape with a while sheet and some Icicle lighting over a delivery pallet but it looked a bit plain. We used large windfall cooking apples to make Ghost, pumpkin and Bat stencils and printed triangles of sheeting to make festive bunting. I stapled each piece onto string to make the bunting but had a really job keeping up with my enthusiastic printers!
Watch out for the ghosts
The younger children then moved on to making spooky hand print ghosts on black card. It sounds so simple but they really had to think about how they were placing their hands on the card to create the ghost effect. We gave them each a little directional smudge to make them look like they were floating through the night. Adding fingerprint faces really brought them to life…..Oooooh!
Giant Pumpkin Painting
We wanted a new game for the fun day and came up with throwing spooky items into the pumpkin. Farmer Nick purchased a giant bag of plastic creepy crawlies on his travels which would work a treat and we set a couple of the older girls to work painting the pumpkin we had drawn on a giant reclaimed piece of card packaging. They did a wonderful job and I’m really excited to try the game now.
Still in full pumpkin flow the girls designed and carved a real pumpkin for me to take centre stage on our Halloween display.
I hadn’t even started on my toilet roll crafts and monster eyes but we had run out of time, the night was drawing in and storm Brian threatening to take hold! I wasn’t going to be short of crafts for our half term fun day, I just had to cross my fingers with the Cornish weather; more on that one next week.
Putting together our Halloween Display for Half Term
Posted on October 23rd, 2017 - Fiona
Here at Coombe Mill we love books that respect nature, teach kids about the world we live in with a view to protecting our planet and its inhabitants. Lonely Planet Kids does all of this and more with the most engaging books full of facts, clever illustrations and interactive sections. We are lucky enough to have been sent three exciting new releases to check out here on the farm and a set for you to win. ‘How Animals Build’ and the ‘Dinosaur Atlas’ are for younger children with the animal book for growing kids. All are impressive, weighty books we love and think you will too.
How Animals Build
I knew I was going to use this right from the start. The lift the flap and see each animal home, packed with information on everything from insects to owls, is enchanting and informative.
We used our copy with the children here as part of a wild animal home hunt on the farm with animal crafts too. It was the perfect book for an afternoon of fun and I know I shall be referring to this one again.
For eager young dinosaur lovers, this book has it all. From life sized body parts like teeth and skulls to facts about where and how they lived this is a perfect resource with lift and tell flaps. I can’t wait to get our toy dinosaurs out and make the sandpit into an archaeological dig for the children after reading this book.
The Animals Book
This book is for the serious animal lover. Older children can discover all about the life and habitat of animals all over the globe and how we can live along side them and help to protect them too. A handy resource beautifully illustrated and designed to last.
Win your Lonely Planet Kids Animals and dinosaur book bundle worth over £40 with Coombe Mill
If you know someone who would love to receive these three stunning books this Christmas why not enter to win. Simply follow the instructions below. Good luck to all taking part.
Win a Bundle of 3 Lonely Planet Kids books.
If you weren’t the lucky winner you can still benefit from 30% off any Lonely Planet Kids books by signing up to their newsletter
We were sent our copies of these Lonely Planet Kids Animals and dinosaur books for the purpose of this review. They are a great resource we use for our themed educational farm actives and can be borrowed whilst on holiday here from the Coombe Mill games room. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.
Posted on October 22nd, 2017 - Fiona
So my favourite session at Brit Mums Live each year is led by the knowledgeable Judith Lewis who knows everything worth knowing on SEO. There is no substitute for being there, to listen and ask Judith questions yourself, but in case you missed it and would appreciate the summary points in an easy to understand format here is my simplifield basic guide to SEO you need to know right now for your blog or website based on Judith’s Brit Mums Live session.
What is SEO
OK so this bit is too basic for Judith, but if like me you get all things internet muddled up, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is just about where you rank when you search on a search engine (like Google). The tips I share here won’t necessarily increase your views or readership, (though it will help if your site is easy to find) they are purely designed to help push you up the queue for your keywords (words you want to be found on).
How Google works
Google is still the only search engine worth worrying about with 90% of search engine traffic. There are 450 updates to Google algorithm annually. You can’t stay up with them all, it is designed that way! However you should be aware of big changes that might cause Google to penalise your site from ranking well. If you think you might have a big problem with Google ranking your site you can take a closer look on the Google search console, Web Master Tools, which will tell you of a problem. The Yoast plug in should flag a problem for you if you have a WordPress account.
Things you should actively do to your site to rank well
- Keep pages updated, old information will rank less well.
- Put relevant links in all posts – Link internally to yourself as well as externally (external is good practice but not a rank factor). Make links follow links unless they are paid for posts with given content or you don’t trust the source.
- Get relevant follow links back to you, this is critical for your rank authority.
- Be ultra mobile friendly. Your site should load in under 2 seconds any longer and you will incur penalties from Google and annoy your site visitors – this will become increasingly important over the next year.
- Put your keyword in the title and near the beginning to help Google. Remember your title doesn’t have to match your url.
- Make each post unique and valuable.
- Grammar and spelling matter, proof read your work well. It will also help your readership and views.
- When looking in a Google search list you want to come up rank 1 – 5 to get optimal click through. Then 10+ on the first page. Randomly 6, 7,8 and 9 rank is ‘no mans’ land, ideally you want to move up or down the page from here. This is just a product of human behaviour searching a list.
Current things to avoid on your site to help you rank well
- Don’t have ad blocks at top of your homepage or light boxes that pop up when a user lands on your site. These are seen as inhibiting the user experience and you will be penalised. It may not be by much and you may decide the benefits are worth it but be aware it is not optimal for SEO.
- Don’t publish articles obviously just promoting affiliate links rather than genuine content or will be penalised.
- Don’t link on spammy all encompassing links like ‘cheap flights’, ‘easy food recipes’, ‘best car insurance’ etc, Google will penalise you for this
- Don’t keep repeating your keywords, it is only needed in the title and once more. If you have your keyword more than 20% in your content you will be penalised heavily.
- Don’t write to a word count. Write for your audience. You only need as few words as Google needs to discover what your page is about. If you can do this in 25 words that’s fine. (I know Yoast says you need 300 words, it’s wrong)
- Don’t put key information you want to be ranked for inside a read more tab, it needs to be on the front page or it won’t be counted.
- Don’t duplicate work on your site or another. Work needs to be unique. If you are posting a sponsored post with given copy the same as will appear elsewhere this is damaging to your ranking. You need to change 85 words per article.
Still with me and ready to understand a little more detail?
This next section is a little more in depth to help with the rationale for the summary points above. It includes sites to visit and how to make sure you are striving for the right keywords for your understand more for your blog or website.
3 things Google ranks your site on:
- Links – inbound to your site.
- Content – what you write.
- Rank brain – Goggle’s way of making sense of 1 and 2 in an intelligent, independent computer form of learning by experience.
Why you need to keep your pages updated
Google tries to make its ranking of your site amongst all the others out there. It crawls your site looking for new information to rank at intervals depending on what your site can cope with and depending on how often you tend to update it.
- Crawl budget – how much Google can crawl your site before it takes it down
- Page value depreciation – the rate of page depreciation. Each post page depreciates if page is further from homepage and the longer it has been left without an update.
Because of these two factors you need to keep updating important pages to keep them fresh in search results. If like me you have 1000s of posts you can’t keep them all fresh. Prioritise the ones most important to you and your viewers.
- To cheat the system – there is a section in the google search console called fetch and render. Use this to get Google to recrawl your page ahead of when it would naturally be done. E.g. if you make an important update. For example I might use it if I changed a holiday price on a property. Don’t abuse this or you will get penalised.
How to check for Google updates to its site ranking that might impact you
This section is for the serious SEO geeks.
Try looking at;
Personally I don’t think I will do any of these, big news travels fast, keep an eye on a few geeks on social media and you’ll soon find out what’s new.
It’s all about mobile speed.
You now need to be mobile friendly and very responsive to rank well. Not just friendly but actively working well on mobile forms. This is going to become increasingly important. I can’t tell you how many people now research and book a holiday with us on a mobile phone, or at least try to!
What you can do:
Check your Google mobile load speed on the Google Developers Page Speed Insights. You need to score 66+ to be ok and 80 or above to not be suppressed in ranking by Google. You can also try putting your site url into GTmetrix to which will tell your exact page speed and there’s even a tab called waterfall which breaks down your load time to each component of your webpage.
Brit Mums came out at an embarrassing 19 seconds on GTmetrix at the event however they’re now coming out at between 5 and 10 seconds.
The Coombe Mill website was around 30 seconds when I first got back from the event but is now between 4.5 and 15 seconds on GTmetrix depending on the criteria I used. In the screen shot below you can see that I’ve got some more work to do to get it really streamlined but I’m pleased with how it’s going.
Watch out for slow loading side bar widgets, they can cost you dearly. I know I have a few that are slow, Trip Advisor is one, I’m going to have a go at creating the badge and feed myself rather than taking their HTML code.
Check what holds your page up, pictures are often responsible for a slower page load. To combat this make sure all pictures are compressed. if you’re on WordPress you can compress your images with a plugin, I’ve recently started using Smush and it seems to be working well.
- AMP – accelerated mobile pages – you will need this in time
Google says eventually only mobile index friendly sites will rank at all with them. It’s all about speed and stripping out all the unnecessary stuff in mobile mode. Have a look at AMP when you next re-launch your site as there is a ranking benefit from it, but be prepared for hard work and expense in implementation. (oh joy!)
Know the keywords you want to be ranked for. This might sound easy but you actually need to think about them and from your readers perspective, what will someone put in to find your post / blog / website?
‘Easy’, ‘quick’, ‘best’ ‘cheap’ are highly searched terms but also have heavy competition for ranking. You might be better to try something with less competition to rank higher.
Google ad words tool can be useful for helping you find your best keywords but watch out on payment.
Judith recommends Keyword Planner or steal from others: use the keywords your competitors are using.
SEMrush will tell you who your competitors are on the free page and enable you to see the keywords they are ranking on (whether they intended that or not). Watch you don’t go over the free limit of searches per day.
- Tip: Anything you want to look at further right click and open in a new tab so you don’t lose the loaded free page.
Dump keyword info of words, volume and how often searched info into excel and make a keyword scatergraph to see what keywords you could usefully use.
I personally use Search Engine Genie which is free and lets you know where you rank on keywords you’re looking at.
Things that don’t impact ranking
Meta description – it may well help your click through so your topic and keywords should be in here and clear but it won’t affect your Google ranking.
Outbound links – good copy has follow links to others but it is not for ranking, internal links to you will help you rank.
Running PPC (pay per click) campaigns – it will drive traffic which is good if it is relevant traffic but not help you rank better.
Number of words – as stated at the start there is no minimum so long as Google can figure out what the page is about.
SEO writing tips
- It’s OK to put a different title from description if wanted.
- You can have 646 pixles or 75 characters for a title (Yoast is out of date at 70 characters).
- Overlap keywords e.g. farm, farm animals, goats. Goats on the farm, animals at the farm. Use semantically related terms. Keep to 1 topic per page to make this natural.
- Split keywords across sentences e.g the goats on the farm….. Our farm goats ……. Google will find the keywords, they don’t have to be just in the specific order (as Yoast SEO suggests). So farm goats and goats on the farm will both be counted.
- Keep keywords close to the title start – Yoast says this and it is valid, it helps Google crawl and categorise your page more quickly and accurately. Remember it doesn’t read pretty writing, just runs with the first keywords it finds so a clever article combines pretty words with keywords early on.
- Don’t use non-alphanumeric characters in meta descriptions as Google can’t read them.
- Push things 3 months before you want them to rank to give Google a chance to build – e.g Christmas in September
- Brand – Every title tag should include your brand name, which for me is obviously Coombe Mill. The title tag is the part that shows up on the top of your browser and on Google searches. Common practice would be add it to the end of the title tag i.e.
Link building and off page SEO
Link building is the most important part for ranking in SEO. However get your technical stuff and content right first and then worry about link building (when you have the right thing to build).
For every post you write with external links in, you give an equal share of SEO benefits to the receiving sites. So if your post has 4 links out, 25% of the link benefit available from your post will go to each of the receiving sites. When using a no-follow link no ‘link juice’ or SEO benefit will be transferred to the receiving site but will still be counted in the division quota. For example, if you have 4 outward links but 1 is no follow, the 3 follow links still get 25% of the available ‘link juice’ benefit your page offers. Remember, it’s important to include external links to give your post a more credibility and resources readership and external links do not detract any ranking from your own webpage.
Internal links build your own SEO but having only internal links is not healthy. You need to offer links out (follow and no follow) for a balanced credible site to Google. There is no maximum number of links specified, all relevant links are good to have.
The Legal bit for follow / no follow links
Beware of ASA / CAP guidelines – disclose posts properly and use follow / no follow correctly.
- If you write the post yourself with your own words it’s OK to run a follow link even if you are paid for the post.
- If you are paid and the content is vetted or given to you it must be no follow.
Follow up sites you might want to check out:
If you’ve digested all of that but want a little more background on some of the key points. Here are some recommended sites
- If Keyword targets confuzzle you take a look at this site
- For more on understanding Google
- All essential jargon:
Congratulations you made it to the end! Fingers crossed you have a few helpful pointers now to go away and make awesome SEO ranked pages that count!
All the above is my interpretation of Judith Lewis’s great 3 hour long Brit Mums talk. Anything you feel I have wrong or misunderstood please let me know, and I’ll update my post in true SEO best practice!
Posted on October 21st, 2017 - Fiona
Out on the farm love is very much in the air. The animals are all looking at their best after the lush grass of summer and the mild start to autumn. The farm is turning to beautiful shades of gold and russet and we are all set for a week of half term fun here with our properties now full.
While the children staying think about Halloween costumes for our Halloween fun Day at the end of the week, the animals have all turned their attention to romance. Admiral Plum has a few lady friends in with him now ready for lambs in spring and Billy goat gruff is emitting stinky goat wafts for all who pass as he makes eyes at the nanny goats he has just been let loose with.
Without doubt the prettiest animals in the autumn season of love are the deer. As we approach The Rut, Rudolph is looking his most magnificent, strutting his stuff and playing up to the rest of the herd who stay watching us from afar. We will avoid taking our guests up through the deer field over the next few weeks as the deer can be unpredictable during the rut. My photos today are from our last venture through their field.
Rudolf looking at his best for his ladies in the season of love called The Rut
I feel rather sorry for the young prickett who has taken himself off for the rut so as not to end up in a fight with Rudolph, the dominant stag. You can see him below hovering behind the fence of the higher field they have access to, not daring to come closer to the girls. He will be accepted back into the fold after the Rut, providing he tows the line.
Prickett ousted for the rut
Morning sunlight catching the herd as they nervously watch us watching them.
I think I must be in tune with the animal kingdom as all my children have spring to summer birthdays. However having Googled it, the peak season for us to have our birthday is autumn. Clearly Christmas is the season of love for mankind. This must have been true for my own parents as I’m an October birthday.
Were you and yours born in the season of love?
Posted on October 20th, 2017 - Fiona
Welcome to Country Kids from Coombe Mill
Country Kids is the original outdoor family fun linky designed to:
“Encourage family fun outdoors, in an age where technology and screens are such a draw to a sedentary indoor life”
Welcome back if you are a regular to Country Kids and if you are new please join in. You will find plenty of inspiration for enjoying outdoor space and please do share your own adventures. We support the National Trust 100 things to do before you are 11¾ along with all other ideas for family fun outside.
Half Term Already!
Wow that was a quick half a term! I still feel like I am getting used to it being autumn and already we have the clocks about to go back and signs of Christmas around. I’m determined to push that to the back of my mind, enjoy half term with my kids and indulge in some Halloween fun with the children on holiday here. I hope you will do the same and don’t forget to share your adventures on the link up below.
Guidelines for Joining in:
- Post must be predominantly outdoors such as in the garden, the park, the woods or the beach with crafting, learning, exploring or playing.
- Despite the title, both countryside and urban outdoor adventures are welcome.
- Unheated covered areas like a barn or tent count as outdoors.
- Please comment on my host post and a minimum of 3 others of your choice.
- If you use #CountryKids when commenting the post owner will know where your found them and hopefully come back to visit your post.
- Please take my badge, without it you won’t be considered for winning the lovely Rockfish Wellies.
- Linked posts should be written and made live within the last 2 months.
- I understand sometimes you need to do catch up posts and write about something from a couple of months ago but the publish date should be within 2 months.
- By joining in with Country Kids you’re giving me permission to email you weekly as a reminder.
- There is no restriction on the number of posts that can be linked up, however please be sensible, if you have more than 3 consider linking over a few weeks.
My top commenters from last week:
- Louise from Little Hearts Big Love who commented on 16 posts.
- Sara from Mum Turned Mom who commented on 15 posts.4
- Emma from The Joy of Five who commented on 12 posts.
We have just one guilty blogger link dumping this week, Please go back if it is you. Do remember I comment count on Thursday after lunch so get your comments in before then if you want them to be counted and please approve your comments by then if they need moderating so I can see others leaving you the blog love.
Rockfish kindly sponsor Country Kids
Win a pair of wellies from Rockfish Monthly
I am delighted to have Rockfish as the sponsor for Country Kids. Rockfish are a local Cornish company specializing in stylish quality wellingtons for all the family. We have been offering their country wellies in our borrow room here on the farm for over a year and they are always popular for their style, comfort and durability.
Each week my favourite #CountryKids posts, which include my badge or a link back here, will be considered for a free pair of Rockfish Wellies at the end of the month; the perfect way to enjoy the outdoors whatever the weather throws your way. Keep your posts coming, it could be you winning next!
For more more information on the Rockfish Wellies on offer with us and terms and conditions to win see here.
Favourite posts from last week added to the shortlist for winning the October Rockfish Wellies:
Top Commenter : Louise from Little Hearts Big Love.
Pumpkin patches are all the rage this year. We don’t have one near us but Emma from The Joy of Five visited a lovely one
And Dear Mummy another, my 3 from Tesco are just not the same!
Country Kids Communities
I’d love you to join me:
Pin on the Pinterest Board Just ask for an invite to pin and include Country Kids on your pins for me to stop by on your boards too.
Follow Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays’s board Country Kids from Coombe Mill on Pinterest.
Join the growing Country Kids Instagram Community with #CountryKidsFun.
I'll like and comment on all and share my favourites from the week with a tag on a Friday on Instagram and Twitter. With over 6800 posts this community is flourishing with outdoors photos.
My favourite photos from the week came from @countryvicarswife @claireshutt_ @home.corner.stories and @wildmamawildtribe. Please do check out these lovely folk on Instagram if you are not already following
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